6:30 PM ET, March 6, 2005
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Kobe Bryant walked over to Reggie Miller at the end of his final NBA game in Los Angeles and gave him a warm embrace. It was the least he could do after what he put Miller through for four quarters.
Bryant had 37 points, 10 rebounds and made all of his 13 foul shots, leading the Lakers to a 103-94 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Sunday night.
Miller finished with 11 points in 38 minutes on 5-of-16 shooting and was 1-for-8 from 3-point range as he finished his career 0-9 against the Lakers at Staples Center.
"It's always fun to play against a guy like Reggie because he thinks the game. He doesn't just go out there and play," Bryant said. "When you match up against a person like that, you have to do your homework. He has had a magnificent career -- a Hall of Fame career. My hat goes off to him and I wish him the best."
Stephen Jackson tied a season high with 29 points for the Pacers, who have lost their last nine road games against the Lakers -- three of them coming in the 2000 finals.
Miller, who announced on Feb. 12 that he would retire at the end of the season, was born in nearby Riverside and played his college ball at UCLA, while his sister Cheryl was starring for Southern Cal and brother Darrell was catching for the California Angels.
"It's special anytime you step on a court, but obviously it takes on a little more significance when you come home to play," said the 18-year veteran.
He made a side trip to Pauley Pavilion on Saturday for UCLA's regular-season finale against Oregon and received a visit from former UCLA coach Walt Hazzard after the loss to the Lakers.
"I had a lot of friends and family here, which was nice, but they've seen a lot of my games and they've been with me the longest," Miller said.
But this game wasn't one for the scrapbook. Miller missed his first shot, a 20-footer from the top of the key, and was 3-for-11 from the field before intermission while the Pacers shot 39 percent. The 39-year-old forward's final 3-pointer in L.A. trimmed the Lakers' lead to 55-47 with 7:46 left in the third quarter.
"I don't think I played particularly well," said Miller, a five-time All-Star, who passed longtime New York Knicks rival Patrick Ewing for 13th place on the NBA's career scoring list during Friday's win at Portland. "I got a lot of good looks early, but we missed too many wide-open shots and our team got into a little rut early. It's hard to play catch-up against an experienced basketball team like the Lakers."
Lakers forward Brian Grant is another Laker who is sorry to see Miller's career wind down after knocking heads with him for 11 seasons.
"He's made a pretty good mark for himself in the NBA," Grant said. "Either you love him or you don't, but he's one of those players that's going to be missed in the NBA.
"He's one of the clutch players and clutch shooters, and it's hard to guard him because he's so crafty. It would have been nice to see him win a championship during his career -- not to say that he doesn't have a chance this year."
The victory put the Los Angeles alone in eighth place for the race for the final Western Conference playoff berth, a half-game over Denver and 1½ over Minnesota. Indiana slipped into an eighth-place tie with Philadelphia in the East, 1½ games behind Chicago.
In their second game since placing leading scorer Jermaine O'Neal on the injured list with a sprained right shoulder and reacquiring Dale Davis on waivers from New Orleans, the Pacers shot 41.7 percent and never led after Bryant's two free throws gave the Lakers a 17-16 lead with 2:42 left in the first quarter.
Bryant scored 15 points in the third quarter, one more than Jackson. The Lakers took a 77-65 lead into the fourth and increased it to 89-72 on Jumaine Jones' 3-pointer with 6:55 to play.
The Pacers got as close as 95-90 with a 17-4 run capped by Miller's running 9-footer with 2:16 remaining, but Chucky Atkins clinched it with eight free throws in the final 1:27 and finished with 16 points.
"We got into a hole we couldn't dig out of, but we just kept playing," Jackson said. "Kobe had a great game and we couldn't find a way to stop him."
Bryant, coming off a 40-point effort in Friday's victory over Dallas, helped Los Angeles build a 50-37 halftime lead with 18 points. The Lakers ended the half with a 12-3 run that included a pair of layups and a 19-footer by the seven-time All-Star.
Miller -- who played his high school ball 60 miles from Staples Center at Riverside Polytechnic High -- has played in all 34 regular-season games between the Pacers and Lakers since coming into the NBA in 1987-88, averaging 17.7 points and shooting 46.6 percent from the field -- without ever fouling out. ... Indiana is 11-23 against the Lakers with Miller in the lineup, and 3-15 in Los Angeles. He tied a career-worst with eight turnovers against the Lakers on Dec. 3, 1995, at the Forum, and shot 1-for-16 against them in Game 1 of their championship series five years ago at Staples Center. ... Miller's record against the Clippers in Los Angeles was 9-7. He gets one more crack at the Lakers on March 18 at Indiana.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||35-84 (.417)||33-71 (.465)|
|3PM-3PA||9-29 (.310)||4-11 (.364)|
|FTM-FTA||15-18 (.833)||33-37 (.892)|
|Fast Break Points||12||11|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||26 (0/0)||17 (0/0)|